Helen Ahn-Cutler on Her Favorite Trailers and the Social Awakening in Entertainment
Helen Ahn-Cutler is a creative director and senior editor at Create Advertising in Los Angeles, a die-hard Lakers fan, BTS ARMY and K-pop stan. Though reasonably accomplished with 20-plus years of experience in creative advertising and 50-plus years experience as a rooftop Korean, Helen is still flummoxed by speaking about herself in the third person. As any good executive would do, she outsourced the writing of this bio to some of the best creatives in town.
Let's take a look.
• "Straight to the point. Generous in time and spirit. In certain ways, a stalker." —Eric Archer
• "Domestic goddess, social connector, brilliant editor, tiger mom." —Barbara Glazer
• "If you say her name quickly three times in a row, Helen will appear." —Scott Goldman
• "One time I told Helen she's doing a good job and she slapped me across the face." —Jacky Shu
• "Helen (with little urging) will deliver the truth. THE truth. It will be artfully packaged but you gotta be ready for the package." —Stefan Grube
• "Helen is slightly burnt around the edges, raw in the middle, underseasoned and overly tart. She has a warm heart and a filthy mouth. I am proud to call her my Queen." —Rodd Perry
• "Have you heard of the original TMZ? That's our Helen, the Queen of social commentary!" —Dana Flowers
• "Master of the edit. Smile she provides to so many. Always lends a hand." —Michael McIntyre
• "Every knob in Helen's house goes to 11." —Des Esposito
• "Helen is an accomplished marketing executive who stands firm in the belief that there will be no sonic justice until the complete banishment of Swish Peptides." —Justin King Hall
• "In between action and reaction, there is a space. In that space is where one defines who they are as a person. Some fill it with Swish Peptides, but Helen prefers Surge Down." —Kevin Flynn
• "Helen is passionate, generous, creative, energetic, funny, uniquely herself." —Maria Pekurovskaya
• "Baking. BTS. Boba." —Matthew Diamond
• "A nerd who would beat you up." —My daughter
• "If you gained some weight, you wouldn't have so many wrinkles. You should have become a doctor. Eat fruit." —My mother. Korean moms for the win.
Muse spoke with Helen for our Backstory series, where we chat with folks in the entertainment industry about their creative inspirations and more.
Helen, tell us...
Where you were born, and where you live now.
Los Angeles. Santa Monica.
Your first job in the industry.
My first job was at LUSSIER, a broadcast promotions agency. It was a startup at that time, so I took on lots of roles, from shining shoes to answering phones to digitizing footage.
A breakthrough moment in your career.
My breakthrough moment was at LUSSIER, launching the TV show Alias. When the project first came in, it was definitely out of reach for me, but I lobbied aggressively to work on it. The campaign received a decent amount of attention, and shortly after that I went to Ant Farm and everything changed.
Three movies you couldn't do without.
I watch very few movies more than once, but these I have watched countless times.
• Boogie Nights. I love a redemption story, and this movie also has the underlying current about finding untraditional family structure in unexpected places, which is another favorite theme of mine. Plus, it has a super dark, twisted side that I find really interesting.
• Knight and Day is a guilty pleasure. I love Tom Cruise, and his chemistry with Cameron Diaz is perfect. It has a strong female protagonist, wish fulfillment, romance, comedy, action, fish out of water, and did I mention Tom Cruise?
• I could watch the entire Alien series again and again. This will come as a surprise to many people, as I am scared very easily and scream very loudly. I love watching it in chronological order. Same with The Godfather supercut, but just the first two thirds...
Your favorite movie quote.
"It's a good feeling, changing someone's perception. That's not an easy thing to do." —Kim Seokjin, from BTS documentary Bring the Soul
Your favorite movie trailer or poster.
There are three trailers I watch pretty frequently for inspiration and because IMO they are best in class. These trailers are all deeply profound and moving in different ways, and I always set out with that mission, to create an emotionally resonant story with an unconventional approach. I can only aspire to make something this amazing.
A classic TV show and a recent TV show that you loved.
I do not have a repertoire of classic shows to recall, because growing up, my immigrant parents watched only Korean dramas with no subtitles, so I had little idea what was happening. There was just a lot of yelling. But during quarantine, I have begun watching some and they are SO GOOD. So in honor of my childhood "classics," I list some K-dramas: Crash Landing On You, Itaewon Class and Mr. Sunshine (incredible cinematography). You definitely get your reading quota in with the subtitles, and I am finally learning to speak Korean.
A recent project you're proud of.
Theatrical advertising has been quiet. It has been a challenging time, but has provided an opportunity to pursue fulfilling projects, which are tangential to our industry and hopefully seminal to changing the landscape of our future workforce.
I spent two weeks teaching high school students how to edit through Film2Future, a filmmaking program for underserved teens in Los Angeles whose mission is to diversify the entertainment industry and inspire future filmmakers. One might say I was a strict teacher, but definitely coming from a place of love and passion. I love volunteering with Good City Mentors, whose mission is to empower youth through team mentoring. We are also about to launch Soapbox Women of Color, with the main mission being to create a social support group that is a safe space, specifically designed for women of color and women who are mixed race, who have a shared experience in the entertainment industry. Lending any of my skills and support to Soapbox Women, Re-Vision, Spark, Create Better, and to these mentoring programs is the recent project of which I am most proud, and undoubtedly my best campaign ever.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
Sound of Metal, which was edited by Rodney Newman at JAX. I adore this man and that entire company so much.
A group of editors across various agencies meets monthly via Zoom, and when the Sound of Metal trailer dropped, we had to wax poetic about its craftsmanship, the love that went into every edit, the passion that went into every choice. We were all so pumped! Alex Wong from Transit said, "It reminds me of why I love making trailers," and that is exactly right. Down the line, you might not remember the story, but you will never forget how it made you feel. It is true for trailers and people. You will never forget how they made you feel.
One thing about how entertainment marketing is evolving that you're excited about.
Our industry is having a social and political awakening of sorts. I am excited to see how that changes the lens of creative advertising, and quite possibly if it redefines the parameters of how we measure success.
The primary building block of my career has been my relationships. Right now, that is what is mentally saving me. This self-reflection period has made me realize how important the people of our industry are to me, to challenge and inspire me creatively, to support and accept me personally. They are my family. I am excited for our next chapter together.
What would you be doing if you weren't in entertainment marketing.
K-pop idol or mukbang champion.